October 24, 2019 / 6:33 AM / 23 days ago

Schroders to manage Woodford Patient Capital after founder's exit

LONDON (Reuters) - Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT) (WPCT.L) named asset manager Schroders (SDR.L) to manage its portfolio on Thursday after last week’s abrupt exit of its founder Neil Woodford.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the logo of investment management company Schroders at a branch in Zurich, Swtzerland November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Woodford, one of Britain’s most high-profile fund managers, resigned as he shut his business after administrators closed his flagship equity income fund.

That followed months of turmoil as Woodford scrambled to sell the fund’s unlisted and illiquid shares to raise cash to pay back investors who wanted to exit, a restructuring that severely hit WPCT.

It will be renamed Schroder UK Public Private Trust when Schroders takes over the management of the assets, expected by the end of the year, and the new management team will stick to WPCT’s existing strategy of investing largely in unlisted firms.

Shares in WPCT surged 28% to 38.5 pence, putting them on track for their best one-day performance since listing in 2015 and a partial recovery of losses of more than 60% since May.

“I would like to thank our shareholders for their support throughout this process as we have worked to put in place the right portfolio manager against the background of challenging circumstances,” WPCT Chairman Susan Searle said.

The move follows a tough period for the board of WPCT, during which they faced criticism of their running of the company and oversight of investments made by Woodford, whose suspended fund had many of the same holdings.

SCHRODERS CHALLENGE

WPCT responded in June by pledging to cut its use of debt, overhauling its board and promising a closer look at Woodford’s investments, but this did not stop a share slide as investors fretted over a firesale of assets.

“Schroders have clearly got a challenge on their hands to sort out the holdings in the trust. There is likely to be a long period of realignment where the manager looks to determine which assets to keep and which to sell,” said Kevin Doran, chief investment officer at investment platform AJ Bell.

WPCT said Schroders would not be paid a management fee for three months. After that, it would be paid a fee equal to 1% of the fund’s assets up to a market capitalisation of 600 million pounds and 0.8% of assets once it breaches that threshold.

Some questioned the fact that Schroders will be eligible for a performance fee at the end of 2022, taking 15% of any returns above a net asset value of 77 pence a share, subject to certain restrictions - something Woodford did not have.

“The payment of a management and performance fee more akin to a hedge fund may irk anyone initially attracted to the trust by the original charging structure,” AJ Bell’s Doran said.

“But for the rest, the opportunity to draw a line under the Woodford situation and move on will be no doubt welcome.”

Reporting by Clara Denina; Editing by Alexander Smith

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